When Joseph was diagnosed at forty-six with lung cancer, he had the east-facing wall of his 800 square foot house replaced with a floor to ceiling window so he could gaze into his garden sanctuary that was bigger than his home. He was most alive tending to his impressive rose bush collection of over two dozen varieties and his beloved fiery red sunset maples he named Sophia and Scarlet. His wife said, “When his fingers were deep in the soil he tapped into the life force of the earth which completely fed his heart and soul. When he was lovingly caring for his roses he felt he was taking care of the beauty gifted and entrusted to him by God.”
I met Joseph and his family for the first time in his last hour of his life. After brief introductions, I started assessing Joseph as he lay there peacefully in his hospital bed by the window overlooking his magnificent garden. His family was milling about the room in the nervous chatter that typically happens in situations like these when people don’t know what to do with their words or hands. It suddenly became clear to me that Joseph was taking his last breaths. I stopped my assessment and took my place at the foot of the bed. I placed my hands on Joseph’s feet and gently guided his family into the importance of the moment. They quickly shuffled to the head of the bed with their backs to me.
The veil between his worlds was making its final ascent. During those humbling two minutes between Joseph’s last breath and the last beat of his heart, the sun peeked through the branches of his beloved maples. A brilliant shaft of sunlight sweetly honored Joseph’s face. This life force from the heavens also illuminated the tears that were silently trickling off the chins of his son’s faces.
From where I stood at the foot of the bed, their tears sparkled, more precious than diamonds, splashing onto Joseph’s face and neck as his life force, his aliveness, left his body.
When was the last time you were most aware of this vital force of life, your aliveness? Were you at church, in the forest, dancing, holding hands with your beloved, making music, practicing yoga, or creating art? Please share an experience with me.
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